Ray’s travels 2020 – ZERO. And, you know why. To be safe we have all restricted our travels and exposure to others who may have COVID. Further keeping me home is that eating now while out and/or traveling is complicated, particularly when you are unfamiliar
with an area. But I needed a break from “44” and booked a bargain lodging rate offered to members by Old Sturbridge Village (OSV). I spent Monday and Tuesday nights at OSV’s Reeder Family Lodges. Gary (number 2 son – in birth order) joined me to tour the Village on Wednesday when it opened for the week. I had not planned to document this getaway, but OSV again has to be shared.
Monday the 17th I meandered south on back roads – always great and scenic. NH 10 to NH 119 East, then south on 32 into Massachusetts to pick up 68 to Royalston, and South Royalston where I got a sandwich at the country store to enjoy on a picnic table along a river. Then US 202 to Mass. 2A to Templeton then unnumbered road south toward Hubbardston where I picked up Mass 68 to 56 eventually to US 20 and into Sturbridge. Spent 5 1/2 hours traversing what can be a two hour trip, but did buy books along the way – hey, that is what I do.
I had no real plans for Tuesday other than to explore and re-explore Northeast Connecticut – “the quiet corner.” Passing through Southbridge (the former optical capital) I saw Dudley and Webster before traveling down 193 to Thompson, Connecticut. Never been there before. Great village green (where the bank at OSV originally was located), great architecture – a must visit. Then Putnam, Pomfret, different route into Woodstock then to West Woodstock and for awhile I explored Bigelow Hollow State Park. Then to Stafford Springs, north to Staffordsville where I found another country store; and, yes, another sandwich lunch on a picnic table, this time on a mill pond. How can one person be so fortunate? Then I explored a different route passing through Wales and Holland, Massachusetts, that is, and thence back to Sturbridge. About five hours of exploring, worth every minute, and now time for reading until Gary arrived.
Guess where Gary and I had dinner? On a picnic table behind a Thai restaurant with our take out. We both took home half of our take out. Lots of fun, conversation and laughs before we connected my laptop to the TV in the room to watch THE BOOKSELLERS documentary on Amazon Prime. I knew of the show, Gary discovered it was there. Much fun because I knew most of the booksellers in the show, and what they had to say I have experienced and agree with. Check it out, well done.
But, at last, it was Wednesday AM, and time to head into the Village. The great thing about having a membership to any venue is you do not feel pressure to see and do all, especially if you are close by. AND, OSV is now part of the North American Reciprocal Museum (NARM) Association, which means with a membership over the $100 level you have access to its network of 1,178 art museums and galleries, historical museums and societies, botanical gardens, children’s museums, zoos and more. You can’t beat that for $100.
Did I tell you I love Old Sturbridge Village? Sorry for so many words, now an OSV tour to entice you to visit, maybe join, and possibly donate to help support their fine mission.
Upon entering the village, you first come to the Small House which is a recent reproduction of the small homes that were common in New England in the early 1800s. Inside this interpreter was making the top covering for a basket.
Moving to the Common, and walking down one side we came to the Fenno House – Canton, Massachusetts, c. 1725 – where textile demonstrations are given.
But, with COVID the interiors of the buildings are not open, instead interpreters are outside sharing with visitors. On the far side of Fenno, Susan, who was one of the docents during my fabulous time BOARDING WITH THE BIXBYS in 2018, was explaining the process from sheep to yarn.
While walking around, Gary and I both remarked how wonderful it was to see families (often three generations) strolling the village, observing, interacting with interpreters and learning. When a mother and young daughter came up, Susan immediately shifted to chatting with the youngster, whose eyes opened up as she was entranced in learning. This is the norm with the staff here. But, wait, there is George in his wagon on the other side of the Common. Yes, I get to know great people at museums I return to, and often there is a special hook. George in his horse circles knows people I know here in town, and his nephew is on our highway department crew. We toured with George for awhile. He is a grand raconteur with historical tales to share about what you see. MAKE SURE YOU RIDE, and ride often with George.
In the mill area of the village we came upon these two with their two baby oxen.
as we chatted, we learned that school had already started for these five month old step-brothers. Same bull, different mothers. We were told they were learning their “ABCs OF BEING AN OX.”
And, then through the covered bridge from West Dummerston, Vermont, just across the river from me a ways. It was to be demolished, and OSV bought it from the State and moved it. Only to have it almost destroyed in the flood of 1955, but two people tied it down as it lifted off its pilings.
Saying goodbye to George, we continued back to the Common where behind the Fitch House it was wash day. I had never seen the blue “washing machine” before, and had to see it. We learned it is not often out.
some things today are easier as you can guess.
continuing on the Common we came to the literally shuttered (due to COVID) Salem Towne House.
After a great lunch of Shepard’s Pie, on a picnic table outside the Tavern, we headed down the opposite side of the Common. At the head is the Center Meetinghouse.
construction has begun (19th century style, except for the ultimately hidden poured foundation) on a new cabinet shop to the left of the Meetinghouse and cemetery. Gary asked me if they had moved the cemetery also – I need to find out.
I have never shown you before the Town Pound where errant loose animals would be gathered awaiting their owners to bail them out. This is a recreation, and somewhat taller and more robust than what most Colonial Town Pounds were.
continuing down past the cobbler shop, old school, pottery shop and kiln, and into the countryside, how can you not just love this view looking over the field to the Bixby House? (click on next few images for larger size)
and across the way the Freeman Farm
below is the Bixby House (built c1808) from Barre, Massachusetts, which is Old Sturbridge Village’s best researched and restored home. It was home to the Bixby family from 1826 until the 1870s and was donated to the Village by the Derby family (Bixby descendants) in 1974. I cannot wait to again to “Board with the Bixbys.”
the front room where we made and ate our meals during my overnight adventure.
We headed back through the Common, and to the gift shop. Gary “gets it,” and wanted to buy something to help support the village. I always enjoy seeing what is in the shop, particularly the items made in the Village and offered for sale. Gary narrowed in on the pottery mugs, and then surprised me, giving me one of the matching mugs he bought (well almost matching, remember hand made). They were both fired in the historic kiln I observed in operation the night I “Boarded with the Bixbys.” We have some traditions, and will now, while sharing movie night on Netflix Party, can each be sipping away on a rum toddy. Gee, a new project to find a “drink of the week.” Well, almost four hours at OSV we said goodbye, albeit from socially appropriate distancing. To my map, and more back roads that I enjoy.
I enjoy the Quabbin area and decided again to travel north along the western border on US 202 – quiet and remote. So (maps out) – US20 west to 148 north to 9 west to 202 north at Belchertown. Why do I like this route? New Salem, Massachusetts, just off the main road, and worth a visit every time I go by wanting to soak up its charm. This 1951 Chevy truck is always outside the New Salem Preserves and Orchards. Their fields to the south are amazing.
continuing further south on South Main Street, this is a great farm. Two couples were visiting (on a picnic bench) and I chatted with them from my car.
forget what google maps may say, but South Main does not go through. It is gated ending on Quabbin land, which can be hiked. As I turned around, I had to share this image with you.
and, back towards the common is this impressive brick home.
Then up to Orange, 2A west to 78 – a great road through Warwick, Mass. Across the border, right on NH10 and up to Keene, and home.
1 – Visit Old Sturbridge Village
2- Join Old Sturbridge Village
3- Donate to Old Sturbridge Village
4- Explore the “quiet corner of Connecticut”
5- Experience New Salem, Massachusetts, I am taking a picnic lunch next time, and look for a picnic table.
6- Relax with my other OSV writings – this link will bring you toward six of my writings and experiences there
Thank you for getting this far, as always, yours, RAY
On Monday, 24 August – Old Sturbridge Village shared my post on their Facebook page. As of this writing at 9:15 PM, I have had over 200 page views of this page today. So happy to share, and to get the word out to have others enjoy and support OSV. (you can click these two images below for easier viewing)